The Business of Wedding Photography

Lesson 11/19 - Defining Success - Workflow


The Business of Wedding Photography


Lesson Info

Defining Success - Workflow

This next session is all about workflow and your products. So, this is where the rubber meets the road, is that the cliche? This is where you really hit the ground running and formulate a way for you to organize all the things that you have to do now with all the things that I've told you you also have to do. So, the nice thing is that, by the end of this section, you are going to be able to have your own organizational plan on paper. So, this is very tangible, you're really gonna do a lot of writing. I do recommend doing this actually on paper when we do it, as opposed to typing it. It just tends to be a little bit better. I think we think a little bit better sometimes when we write than when we're typing. So, if you're at home, viewers at home, get out your paper, get out your pen, pencil, your favorite Sharpie, whatever gets it going for you. We're starting off in the workflow section. That word always bugs me, to be honest, workflow. I feel like it's very, it's a very empty word. W...

orkflow, that can mean so many things. The way that I like to define workflow is just how you make your post and pre-wedding, or post and pre-wedding shoot function. How does it flow? How does it move from point A all the way to Z, from the second the client walks in the door or inquires with you, until you deliver them their final product. How can I make that better for all of you? That's really my goal, I wanna make it better for all of you. Some of the stuff I'm talking about you will have already implemented, great, and there'll be a lot of new things in addition to what I can confirm you're doing right. Both of those things are good. Again, I wanna look at the big picture for you guys, so for me, I told you free time was all about friends, family, and success. That's what success was for me, my free time for myself. So, this is what my family looks like. I've got six family members. I have, you know, my parents, my brother, my hubby, my daughter, and my son. And those are the people that are on the top of my list that I want to spend time with. The reason I tell you I can teach this class to you, or this section on workflow is because, for my wedding photography business, I personally work, not including what I shoot, about two to four hours a week on that business, and you can get there too, all right? So, the rest of my time I spend doing other things, but some people only have four free hours of waking hours of free time a week, and that's about the time that I personally spend because of the systems I've created for myself. I'm big on traveling. I love to visit other countries. I've had a workflow in place where I've been able to, you know, have a baby, right? Two babies, and not really miss a beat on what I'm providing to my clients, except for that time when I accidentally went into labor early and had an engagement session that night. That was unavoidable, all right? So, we didn't get that covered. But I was able to even spend six weeks in Brasil, in another country, and not miss a beat. My clients all got what they needed, what they expected, still booked weddings for that year. So, that's what I wanted my success to look like. That's what I wanted my life to look like. And why is this important? You know, why should you care? Why should we look at this bigger picture as we go into the workflow section? You know, how do you define success? You know, how do you want to be remembered? These are just questions that will help you think about what you want your life to look like. How do you wanna live it? What really matters? And a lot of you, especially with the what really matters, you say, "Oh, friends, family." We prioritize them, you know, that's what we wanna do, but you know, look at your calendar. Are you really prioritizing your friends and family, your life over your work? And yes, we love our work, we're passionate about it, we love what we do, but there are bigger picture things to look at. And isn't it ironic? Isn't it ironic that we spend our lives photographing these precious memories of our clients, but find little time to have them of our own? That is a powerful thought. So, it is about laying a foundation that gives you not only a great business, but gives you a great life, and being able to be there. When I was a little girl, my dad started his own business, or worked for himself. He was in insurance sales, and he went from being in carpentry, painting and building houses to doing a very big switch from blue collar to white collar I guess, right? And he had to do the business in the home, and that meant he had his office, and that meant that me, as a little girl, thought daddy was home and he could play with me. And I have this really vivid memory of going into my dad's office and he was on his phone. Business was conducted on the phone all the time back then. And I stood there and I said, "Daddy, can you play with me?" "Not right now, Vanessa, I have to do this." So I waited and then I sat down. "Daddy, can you play with me?" "Not right now, Vanessa, I have to do this." And eventually I laid down there. "Daddy, can you play with me?" "Not right now, Vanessa, I have to do this." And there's this little girl laying on the floor just waiting for her daddy to come play with her. And I never wanted that for my kids. I wanted to work hard, but I wanted to create a business that eventually will lead to free time, and now my dad actually did make that. Now we go on vacations together. Next week we'll be in Austin visiting my brother, actually. Or wait, the whole family's going, 'cause he lives there now. And now we can do that, and he did build a business, and you have to put those hours in at first. You have to do all of that work. But with that end goal in mind, you are working towards something and not just working to work. So we can all stop crying now. (laughing) All right, so to start this off, you have to decide for yourself, what does your success look like? What does success look like to you? If you don't start here by defining it, you'll never end up there either, so you have to start with what do you want for success? So, this is where we do actionable things. This is not a motivational speech, this is for you to think about it. So right now, you are thinking about this. What does your success look like? Maybe for you it's building an empire and living and working in your office? Hey, that's okay, it doesn't have to be the way mine is about free time. Maybe yours is building a family company, so that while you're working, you are working with your family, and that's a goal of yours. So, take a few minutes, think about it, and then you guys are all gonna share, by the way, because it's a big question to think about what your success looks like. It's really just looking at your life. Another way to ask this, and I don't like the typical way of asking it, but you know, where do you see yourself in five years, or 10 years, or 20 years? What does it look like? What do you want your business to create for you? So, I won't make all of you do it, but let's say at least three of you. I need you to share what your version of success looks like to you. I shared mine, so now it's your turn. We can grab the mic over there. Well, I have two toddler boys at home, so I kinda have a story like yours where I'm, you know, trying to juggle mom life with some photography too, and it would be nice to have more time with them, and with my husband too, I guess. So yeah, that's my goal. Perfect, I love it, very good definition of success there. Who else, go ahead. Honestly, I struggle with this question and have for a really long time. I don't know what success looks like or where I'm gonna be in five to 10 years, but a dream of mine would be that I could do 80/20, so give away 80% of my income and live on 20 of it. Or maybe I did the math wrong, but whatever. But that would be, like, that would be a success for me. That's awesome. That is a very defined goal, that's perfect, I love that. And one more person, at least one more person. Go ahead. The key is spending time with the wife, and she's in a similar business, and so, I guess for us the goal would be to work side by side, but also be able to say yes to the projects we wanna say yes to and no to the stuff that we don't wanna work on, 'cause right now we're in a situation where I feel like we have to taken on every dollar that's waved in front of our face. Ugh, that's so true. That is a great freeing thing when you are able to look at jobs that come your way and say, "You know what, this one's not for me." And it's okay to say that. And you've got, you know, the business to be able to sustain that. That's a really good one too. Perfect, anyone else just feel like sharing, or you're like, "Oh thank god, I'm off the hook." (laughing) Okay, perfect, so we can pass the mic back. Okay, so those are really good. So, if you're at home, that is your assignment. And if you're not sure what your success looks like, try not to even think of the massive big picture. Think of, I don't know, if you could, what would you do this weekend, all right? You know, what would you do if you weren't shooting a wedding this weekend? What is something that you enjoy doing. Your definition of success absolutely changes throughout your life also. You know, before I had kids, my definition of success was more like, I wanna be able to go out to any nice restaurant that I want and order whatever I want off the menu and have the free time to do it. All right, so yours changes as you go, and that's okay too. But nothing is small picture here when we look at workflow. So, this is how your definition of success is going to play out. First, we talked about my definition, so you're gonna start with step one, what is success to you. Then you move onto step two, what does that actually mean for your business? So, if you want free time, that means you have to cut down the time that you spend personally. If you want to do a lot of traveling, then you need to make sure that your business is very mobile, so that you can work from any corner of the Earth with internet, right? Number three, then what do you need to consider doing to your business now? You need to consider outsourcing so I'm not doing all the minutia in my business, you need to consider automating, so that the things that you do are not monotonous, and you find a way to do them faster, and then I need to consider working abroad. So, if I wanna do a lot of traveling, then maybe I wanna look into doing more work in other countries, which is something, actually, my husband has recently made a goal and started doing. So, here's where you have to understand a few things about yourself in order to work this definition of success. So, we did this, number one, definition of success, what are your goals. Now you have to think about your strengths. So, I want you to write down some of your strengths. This is the easy part of the exercise. We usually can figure out what we're good at. Photography may or may not be on there, by the way. I know this is wedding photography week, but sometimes you build a wedding photography business where you don't take photos eventually. That might be part of your definition, so don't feel bad about that. Now, your weakness, on the other hand, we have a little bit of a harder time trying to figure out what we're not good at. If you're having trouble trying to figure out what you're not good at, just ask your mother. Or your spouse. They will happily use this time to tell you a thing or two you're not good at. But really, it does help to ask those that are closest to us about some of these things. Third, what is your motivation? What gets you out of bed? What do you love to do? You know, what is it in this business that you love doing, some things that motivate you? Or even in your life that motivates you. Then take a look at your priorities, what are your priorities? I already told you, you might think of them in your head what your priorities are, but look in your calendar and they might be different. You know where else you can look to find out where your priorities lie? Your bank account. Where you spend your money, that's where your heart is also. I was listening to a book, I wanna say it is Story Brand by Donald Miller. Great book, love it. Fairly new, I think. They were talking about the word "priorities." The word "priorities" used to just be singular. We didn't have the word "priorities," because by definition, priority is the thing that's most important, the priority. It was only recently, I think he said within the last 30 to 50 years that that word, that we pluralized it, and now there are priorities. Very interesting thought. And then finally, you need to think about the unique part. You know, what makes you you, all right? What about your photography business, or even your life, what are the things that are unique to you? Think about the things, even, that we talked about before that make you different as a photographer, that makes your experience different, things like that. So these are all parts that you want to think about before we get into how they apply to your business. I've broken this down very rough, but they're all parts of a whole. So, in your photography business, you're responsible for a lot. Some might say you have 17 hats to wear, right? So, you've got the photography side, shooting, educating yourself, the equipment, learning the equipment, you've got the marketing side, all the social media networking, branding, advertising, the communication, all the meetings, sales sessions, whatever it is, you've got the editing section, even if it's marketing materials that you're editing, graphics you're creating. Accounting, ugh, nobody likes that section. Maybe you like that section, I don't know. And then your product fulfillment, all the ordering. That is just a rough outline, but what you're going to do, everyone's going to take a piece of paper, a little blank one, I love that you guys have paper here, you're gonna draw a line right down the middle of that piece of paper. This is where it's much easier to do this on a piece of paper rather than going to a Word document and trying to make lines. That usually doesn't work out too well for me. So, one line right down the middle. On the left side, you're going to take all of these things in here and any of the ones you come up with, things that you do in your business, and on the left side, you're going to write down all the things you hate, all the things that you're not good at, all the things that slow you down, all of the things that your face does not have to be in front of, all of the things that are something you spend way too much time on. Then on the right side of that column, you are going to write down all the things you love, all the things that are the reason you got into this business. You're going to write down all of the things, all the places where your face has to be, where you personally need to do these things, and the things that you are good at, you do like to do. So, you're gonna take a second and do that while I blab about something else. (laughing) So, these aren't all of the things in here. Now, immediately, you guys are going to think to yourself, okay, I know right off the bat I hate bookkeeping and I don't need to do bookkeeping, or I don't like to do it, so that's on my left side. But a lot of you will look at something like marketing materials and think, "Well, I'm okay, I'm pretty good at "making marketing materials and "I don't really hate to do it," so that can go on the right side of the column. But, you know what, could you maybe pay someone else about $10 an hour to do some of this stuff that you're doing? Some of the things in that right column, are there some things in there that you could pay minimum wage for, which obviously varies depending on where you are? So, if you're looking at your two columns, anything you've put on the right side that could be done by someone else for a minimal amount of money, just move it over to the left. Give it a little sift. Tim Ferris is one of my favorite authors. I love the book The Four Hour Work Week, and in there, he says that you should be concentrating on spending your time doing $1000 an hour work, not $10 an hour work. What's $1000 an hour work? $1000 an hour work would be making sure that you're networking with that wedding planner and going and sitting down and having lunch with her and getting on her radar. That's $1000 an hour work, 'cause the hour that you spend going to lunch with her, actually, if she sends you just one wedding, that's like $4000 an hour work, right? Depending on what you charge. So, anything that's $10 an hour work, slide it on over. And what you've done here is you've just created an organizational plan for yourself. On the left side, these are the kinda things that you need a team for, like this little team of bridesmaids that she's got going on here. All right, these are the things that you outsource. Now, that's like a dirty word to photographers a lot of times. Like, outsource, lose control? No, no, they can't do that like I do that, they can't edit that photo like I do, they can't put that graphic design cover, or make those thank you cards, or album designs, or whatever it is that could potentially be in there. And you know what, you're right, they can't. They won't do it exactly like you. Why? Because there's an infinite amount of possibilities, infinite amount of ways that you can edit a photo. Infinite. There's no way they're gonna do it exactly like you. However, do clients know the difference between good and great? Not particularly. And you should always strive for great, I'm not saying that, but are they gonna notice the difference between you editing and your editor editing? Yes, do you wanna know why? Because if you edit them all, it's gonna take six weeks. If someone else edits them, it takes three, right? So, you are actually saving time on your end and bettering their product because you're bettering your customer service and how you're delivering it to them. Potentially, you're also, you know, bettering your product. I actually like designing albums. I liked it for a while, and I would do it. But I'm not actually very good at it, so now I don't anymore. I have graphic designers that do that. Every once in a while I will, and thankfully I use a program, I use Fundy, Fundy Album Designer, and they don't let me have too many controls, so it usually comes out okay if I use them. Now, on the right side, this is where you've decided that you need to come forward. You need to come forward and this is where you need to shine. These are the places where you make the most impact, the places where you are making $1000 an hour, the places where your face has to be the forefront of it. All right, you want to also include there, I know I told you things like maybe post-production isn't a good idea, but maybe that's something you love. I actually do like to edit the photos. Most of the photos that you've seen here I have edited myself. I do enjoy editing my favorite photos, so maybe that's something that you do. I have a friend of mine in New Jersey, incredible wedding photographer, and one thing that he does is he edits every single photo he takes, period. I've tried to convince him otherwise, doesn't work. But for him, he sets that client expectation that it might take six months for them to get their photos, but that's because he personally takes care to edit every single one. And that is part of something that's unique to him, and something he enjoys. So you know what, if that's you, keep it that way, because that's part of where your face is, where your artistic touch is. But just mind the gap, mind that difference. I think it's Tim Ferris, maybe, in one of his books that he talked about language acquisition. He loves learning new languages. And it takes about six months of solid, continual learning, probably immersion in a language, to learn a language up to 80% fluency. Do you know how long it takes to get to a 96% fluency? 20 years. Years. Now, if I were to start speaking Spanish to you, or even Portuguese, which is another language I randomly just picked up, you would think I'm fluent in both of them. But I'm not. I'm about that 80% mark. To get to 96, it's gonna be years, a lot more. But what do you notice? What do most of your clients notice? That 16% between perfection and exceeding and your client's expectations, you have to find that happy place, all right? And in that happy place is where you're going to get this organizational plan to work for you. By holding onto the control, you're actually doing your clients a very big disservice, because you're not letting the masters of editing work on their photos, you're not letting the masters of graphic design work on their thank you cards or save the dates. So, you're actually doing a disservice by not building a team around you. Now, if you're just starting, you might not be able to do all this on your own yet, so we'll get to that. This is what it looks like for me. This is what I outsource. These are all the things that I streamline. And by streamline, meaning I find ways to do it faster. Like social media, I use Buffer. Client communications, emails, I use 17 Hats. What I actually spend my time on is shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting, 'cause that's in front of my clients, that's me. Client sales and meetings, again, I'm in front of them, that's me. And networking, in front of colleagues, that's me, so that's where my face is. And then, because I've freed up all this other time, I don't just only work two to four hours a week and get to dance in the rain with my kids for the rest of those hours. That's not it. I do other things, all this speaking, I do a lot of writing, making those Adarama TV videos, stuff that's just fun. And then this last one, this is big for you. This is things that aren't making me money yet, and I learned that from one of the co-founders of CreativeLive, Craig Swanson. We sat down for lunch one day and he said, "What are you working on that's not "making you money yet?" I was like, oh, what does that mean? He was like, "You need to put aside time "to work on things that aren't lucrative right now. "You need to spend time working on your business, "not always in your business." So, make sure that you are able to free up at least enough time to do things that are bettering your business as a whole that you're not seeing a return on investment necessarily right then and there. That's a very powerful realization he gave to me. We're always learning things at CreativeLive. But it's important to notice that this is all unique to you. So, with that organizational plan, you have to go back to that definition of success, what do you want your business to look like, what do you want your life to look like. And every time a new task comes on your plate, you think, "Should I do this? "If I do this, does this get me closer to my success, or does it bring me further away from my success? Is this something that I need to find a way to do faster and still do myself? Which, if you're new to your business, that's usually the answer to everything 'cause you can't afford it yet to outsource. But there's no one size fits all. I just showed you the things that I outsource, but that's not gonna be you yet. It has to unique to you. It has to take what you want into account. So, this is how to plan for it from A to Z. So, you wanna begin to outsource. You have to research vendors. Research vendors is number one. Great places to do that, you know, workshops like this. Google's a little bit okay. Going to trade shows is great, photography trade shows. And you need to calculate the cost and then adjust your pricing for them. If you're just starting out, you're probably not going to outsource much right now, right? Other than probably your printing, 'cause you're not printing albums usually when you first start out. Or ever, unless that's your thing, and you like making your own albums by hand, by all means. For me, the very first thing that I outsourced was the post-production, because that's what made the most difference for me. I was spending eight hours every job. And even when I got really good at it and trimmed it down to, like, two, when Lightroom got better and things like that. That's still two hours per job, and I was shooting 30 to 40 weddings a year. Do the math, that's a lot of time. So that's what I saved up for and that's where I adjusted my pricing first for a couple of hundred dollars to be able to outsource all of my post-production. So that's step one, beginning to outsource, research your vendors. Then you need to get tools for streamlining, 'cause you can't outsource everything, especially right away. So find ways that you can cut down on the time you spend, but still enhance customer experience. You don't wanna cut down on the time you're spending and then that penalize your clients. It's a fine line between doing things faster and doing things better. Number three, you're gonna have free time, so where are you gonna spend it, right? The last thing you wanna do, and this is what happens, we do all this work, we outsource things, and then somehow we still have no free time. How did that happen? I just freed up eight hours of editing per job and somehow I'm still swamped and can't answer all my emails every day. All right, you have to deliberately decide where you're going to spend your time instead. You know, that $1000 hour work, where are you needed so that you're deliberately working where you should. Then you have to know when you're ready. We hinted on this before. You do have to be ready financially. Financially is big. We're gonna talk about that and I'm gonna help you get ready for that financially when you get to pricing. But you have to be ready for it emotionally. You have to be okay letting it go, and then commit to letting it go. You have to commit to training someone, to working with a company. You know, when I first started outsourcing, I wasn't using Shoot Dot Edit, I was using another company. I can't even remember the name. Retouch Edits, maybe? I don't think they're around anymore. But they didn't do anything right. And then when I went and switched a company, I moved, you know, I finally moved over to Shoot Dot Edit, they had their style match, I have to work with the style match editor and go back and forth and they didn't get it right every first time I sent them something. It's like hiring a new employee. But I was committed to making that a change in my business. So, you have to be ready, and then you have to stick to it. If you're gonna hire an office manager or a virtual assistant, you need to learn to delegate and not do. I said this before, you think to yourself, "I could get that done in three minutes, "why am I gonna spend 30 minutes "trying to train this person?" Well, you're gonna do it because the benefit later is infinite. When I first hired my studio manager Jay, she actually interned for me. She wanted to intern for me, which she did for a year, and then I finally hired her afterwards, and she's been with us six years now, so I don't know, she better never leave me. I love her too much, she can't leave. But when she first got hired, I had to walk her through every little thing. I had to first demonstrate it, right? Those four steps I told you about teaching. Demonstrate it first and then watch her do it and walk her through it and then correct her. And yeah, it's a lot of teaching and a lot of training, but you wanna know what happens now? I get emails and then I forward them to her. I don't even say hi, I just forward them to her and she knows what to do with them. That's it! It's so beneficial, and you need to have patience, not only for them, like whether it's a company or a human being, but also for yourself, because if you've never trained anyone, you're probably not gonna do it right the first time either. So, have patience and learn how to do it. So that's how that looks going through. So, decide for yourself what needs outsourcing, decide for yourself what needs that attention, decide what needs streamlining, and then actually make it happen. You guys already have it all written down, right? All right, perfect. All right. The goal behind all of this is you have to plan for it or you will drown in it. So, run your business or it will run you. Because you've been doing all this marketing, right? You're trying to get all this business, we work on getting all this business and we find ways to do it on social media and branding and client experience, but if you don't have a plan for it when it gets dumped in your lap, it's just gonna pile up till you can't breathe anymore, till it covers your face. So make sure that you have a plan for running it. It's very black and white. It takes a little bit more in the backend work, but it is black and white. So, this is just a little bit about who I trust. I told you what I outsource. This is who I use for what. I mentioned post-processing. I'm using Shoot Dot Edit. My albums and printing, I've got Miller's doing a lot of that, most of it. I do use another company, Pictobooks, I really enjoy, it's just they have some unique cover styles that Miller's doesn't offer, so just depending on the bride too. We're gonna get more into the products and how I offer them and what I offer in a minute. In a minute, next little segment. And then contract labor. So, this is, like, humans are doing this part, as opposed to companies. So, I have a graphic designer that, they're freelance contractors, you know, they work for me and other people. They do the album designs, and thank you cards, and save the dates, and things like that. Social media and blogging, that's my virtual assistant. I actually hired someone from Upwork, You can find great virtual assistants. There's lots of places you can find virtual assistants. But I hired her for a project and then ended up bringing her on for more. And then product fulfillment. So, my office manager, she will order the thank you cards for me, she will order the canvases from Miller's, she will do that stuff, as much as I love spending time in rows, right, in the online systems doing that, she does most of it. I still order the actual albums, 'cause if figure that's the most expensive part, and if there's a mistake made there, I wanna make the expensive mistakes, so I don't wanna put that over her head.

Class Description

Along with your technical and creative knowledge, you need to know how to run your wedding photography business and set it up for long term success. How else can you expand and reach your desired clientele? Vanessa Joy, an award winning wedding photographer, joins us at CreativeLive to teach you the skills to help your business thrive. She’ll provide actionable steps in marketing, communication, workflow, and pricing that will attract the couples you want to work with. You’ll learn:

  • How to show your photographic style
  • Secret areas to brand your business
  • Social Media Quick Tips
  • Methods to make clients happy
  • Keys to effective and efficient workflow
  • What products you should offer
  • Packaging that sells
  • Understand how to make profit

Photograph what you love and learn to run a business that allows you to market your creativity.


Célia Gomes

I loved this class! So inspirational and useful tips! Congratulations Vanessa. Thank you so much for sharing your experience! And thank you Creative Live for opportunity of watch the class for free. Célia Gomes, Portugal.

angela warmington

Great course. Full of great business tips and practices that are adaptable to your own personal style of business. She has such a passion and love for her work and it comes across very clearly as she teaches. I am new to wedding photography and am so glad I purchased this course!!

a Creativelive Student

This course is fantastic! Whether your new to the industry or been at it forever, there are amazing tips that can easily be implemented to improve your business. Vanessa lays everything out clearly. There were a number of things I had heard in the past, which is not a bad thing. This reinforced ideas and reminded me to work on things that I have been putting off. I highly recommend checking out this course with Vanessa Joy.